Killing Good Bacteria with the Bad

Do the probiotics I take replace the good bacteria wiped out by antibiotics?

Do the probiotics I take replace the good bacteria wiped out by antibiotics?

I’m pretty tired of that perky Jamie Lee Curtis and her “Activia” ads on television. Yeah, I’ll admit it, maybe I’m just jealous that she looks so damned good at her age, while I feel my own looks sliding into oblivion as the years slide by.

But I’ll admit she delivers an important message in those yogurt ads—good bacteria promote digestive health. And I’ve learned they do much more.

A riveting article by Michael Specter titled “Germs are Us” in the October 12 (2012) New Yorker magazine addresses this question: “Bacteria make us sick. Do they also keep us alive?”

Specter reports that “…the destruction of bacteria may contribute to Crohn’s disease, obesity, asthma, and many other chronic illnesses.”

As if I didn’t have enough to worry about with threatening bacteria like Borrelia burgdorferi and Babesia microti roving my body and making me sick, I’m quite concerned that antibiotic treatment is killing too many good guys among the tens of thousands of bacteria species in my body.

I’m taking that risk with my eyes open.  I chose antibiotics to treat my lyme and co-infections because I believe they’re my best hope for regaining the physically and mentally active life I’ve been missing because of lyme disease.

I do not take the trade-off lightly. I hedge my bets, taking probiotics—dietary supplements supposedly filled with millions or even billions of live good guys. They don’t come cheap; I’m spending more than $100 a month on them.

I also spoon up plenty of yogurt and home-made kefir. My daughter recently introduced me to another fermented drink, kombucha, filled with live bacteria.

Unfortunately, research about the effectiveness of probiotics is lagging. The New Yorker notes that these supplements are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Admimistration. No one really knows how many of which strains we need for good health, or how many viable ones may thrive in our bodies after we swallow the pills.

All I can say is, my friends and I definitely notice a difference in our digestive tracts when we add probiotics to our diets. And when we stop, trouble from antibiotics starts.

It’s not pretty. Especially if a life-threatening bacterial infection called C-difficile, usually controlled by some of the good bacteria, takes over.

It’s frustrating that with antibiotics so prevalent in our world, we don’t know for certain which bacteria we need or how to replenish them. But as Specter explains, this is one incredibly complex topic.

I wish we had more than hope that probiotics do the job—not just for lyme patients on antibiotics, but for anyone who has taken these drugs. In this day and age, we should have the research to back them up, and the knowledge to fine-tune what we’re adding to our bodies for the best possible results for our health.

Maybe Jamie Lee Curtis could use her star-power to speak up for that.

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4 thoughts on “Killing Good Bacteria with the Bad

  1. annie January 16, 2013 at 2:01 pm Reply

    don’t eat dairies with lyme , you’ll be in pain
    just take probiotics

    • LifeLoveLyme January 16, 2013 at 7:49 pm Reply

      I don’t notice a difference when I have dairy, but this is all so complex and different for each of us — I’m trying gluten-free right now, and I do notice less pain. Whatever works!

  2. fuzzytek May 4, 2015 at 7:17 am Reply

    Have you continued consuming kombucha with any regularity? I’m reading that if it is made with sweeteners other than regular sugar (use honey or agave) that it may have better results. There may be a way to work with those who know the various strains of bacteria best to ensure the healthy bacteria of probiotics that would fight off those of the disease could be boosted. I’m not a doctor or scientist to know what is best. I have had multiple bouts with cellulitis in my shins and found kombucha has helped quite a bit in controlling this.

    • LifeLoveLyme May 4, 2015 at 12:04 pm Reply

      You know, my daughter is a big fan of kombucha, and it is something I have been meaning to look into. Sugar is a big issue for people infected with Lyme, feeding yeast infections that come with antibiotic use; I’m always frustrated trying to find yogurt with limited amounts. Thanks for the reminder – stay tuned for a post.

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